Chapter 24 : Pre-Vacation Problems
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A few days after Harry's homecoming, he took Alby, Severus, and Sirius flying in his backyard. He would have taken Teddy and Jamie also, but they had Junior Quidditch practice. Sirius would have loved to go to practice with them, but the coach said it was too late in the season to introduce a new player, so he would have to wait till next year. To console the unhappy little boy, Harry offered to give him private lessons along with Severus and Alby.
At first Sirius was sulky and uncooperative. "I don't wanna take lessons with little kids. Alby's a toddler and Snape's . . . well, he's Snape. They don't even have their own brooms yet!" he said scornfully.
Harry's expression, formerly genial, hardened in disapproval. "That's the wrong attitude to have, Sirius. Just because you can't be on the Junior Quidditch League like your brothers is no reason to be a sulky uncooperative brat."
"But Harry, it's not fair! I could be on the Junior Quidditch team . . . I fly better than Jamie," Sirius groused.
"That's as may be, but it's not up to you. Sometimes, Sirius, you can't always get what you want," Harry said. "Now, here are your options. You can either fly with me and my two sons and learn some maneuvers from me, or you can sit here and sulk and be miserable and not fly at all. What's it going to be?"
Sirius pouted for a few minutes more, thinking it over. Faced with no flying or flying, he supposed he'd choose the latter. He just didn't like his flying companions all that much, with the exception of Harry. He thought he was way beyond their skill and didn't want them to hold him back. "Can't you just . . . teach me by myself and then teach Alby and Snape, since I fly better?"
"Look, Sirius. I don't have time to have separate classes just because you don't like the idea of sharing a class with less experienced students. You have to get used to the fact that not everyone will be at the same level as you in a class, not in school and not on a Quidditch team either. And you just have to deal with it. You have class with Sev and Alby or not at all. Well?"
"Okay!" Sirius agreed reluctantly.
Harry frowned at the child's insolent tone. "And Sirius . . . you had better mind your manners when you're flying with Alby and Severus. You aren't to make fun of them because they aren't as good a flyer or pull any stunts on them, or else you'll be grounded—and I'm not talking about just from a broom either, I'll put you on restriction inside the house for the afternoon, where you can write lines for me."
Sirius gulped at that threat. Being forced to sit inside on a bright sunny afternoon and write lines was worse than even a spanking by his lights. He'd always detested busy work, especially when it prevented him from going outside and having fun. "I'll behave, Harry."
Severus was dubious when he came outside and saw Sirius standing there with his training broom. He recalled the way Black used to fly at school in his former life, and the other wizard had been very good, but also arrogant, like his pal Potter. The two thought they ruled the air, and often taunted other flyers and sneered at those who couldn't fly well. They also pulled maneuvers which were risky and dangerous. He doubted if much had changed.
"Why are you here, Sirius?" asked Severus, scowling.
"Harry asked me to come over, 'cause the coach for Junior Quidditch won't let me practice with the team." Sirius answered sullenly. "Harry said I could fly with you and Alby."
"You'd better not pull any tricks with Alby, Black. Or else you'll deal with me."
"What are you, his bodyguard, Snape?" Sirius sniggered.
"I'm his brother," Severus said softly. "And I meant what I said."
Sirius rolled his eyes. "Oohh, I'm scared! I'm bigger than you, Snape. Still think you can take me?"
"I don't think, I know," Severus replied, glaring hard at the other boy.
Sirius snorted. "Don't get your robes in a knot, Snape. I would never hurt Alby. He's Harry's son."
"An' Sevvy is too," Alby piped up from behind them. He didn't really care for Teddy and Jamie's new brother ever since Sirius got into a fight with Sevvy at Victory Day dinner. "Sevvy's my big brudder, Sirius. My daddy says so."
"Sure, sure, whatever, kid." Sirius said nonchalantly, with the typical air of an older child to a much younger one. Inwardly though, he cringed at the fact that Snape was so much a part of the Potter family now. When had that happened?
Harry returned from retrieving his Firebolt from the locked broom cupboard. He sensed the tension in the air and decided to divert it by starting the lesson.
"All right, Sirius, I want you to hover about ten feet above the ground." Harry instructed. "Alby, you can be first to fly with me, then it's your turn, Sev." Harry picked up Alby and settled him in front, securely Stuck to the broom. "Ready, Alby?"
"Ready, Dad!" Alby squealed as Harry rose swiftly into the air.
Severus smiled a bit as he watched Harry and Alby flying. Alby was so enthusiastic about almost everything, that Severus couldn't help but be also. Severus really enjoyed having Alby as his younger brother, he was sweet and funny, and though sometimes he could be annoying, the way he looked up to Severus made the older boy feel great. He had never been admired by anyone before, unless he counted Lily when they were younger, and it was quite a heady feeling. It was also a position that made him nervous, because now he had to set a good example for Alby to follow.
Harry called instructions to Sirius as they flew, and Severus observed that at least Black had brains enough to listen to his former godson and not act like a know-it-all flying prat. For once.
After doing some dives, loops, and spirals, Harry flew down with Alby and took him off the broom. Alby protested a little, but Harry said, "Albus, it's Sevvy's turn now. You have to be patient. I'll come back and take you up again later. For now, sit on the grass and watch us. See if you can spot any mistakes."
"All right, Daddy. But hurry!" Alby said, and obeyed his father. He doubted if he'd see any mistakes from his dad. His daddy was the best flyer ever, except for maybe his mummy.
Severus liked flying with Harry, who could do the most devilish tricks and yet never risked his small passenger one iota. Though he did remember how to fly from his former life, he also recalled not being too keen on a broom. He preferred more intellectual pursuits, such a brewing, harvesting, and inventing. That was how he discovered the spell to fly without a broom. He still remembered the spell, but his magical core was too small to cast it yet. But when he was older . . . he would knock the pants off of Sirius with it. Black and Potter had always bragged about how brilliant they were with transformations, becoming Animagi in their fifth year. But neither of them had mastered true flight. Severus had stumbled upon the key to it by accident. He gave a small smile of satisfaction. Someday . . . he thought.
"Are you having fun, Sev?" asked Harry as he made the Firebolt slingshot around the cemetery.
"Yes," Severus called back, for he was, even though the wind was blowing his hair in his eyes.
"Good." Harry reversed direction and flew back towards Sirius.
"Harry!" Sirius was waving as Harry approached. "Look at this! Watch me!"
Sirius still recalled all of the maneuvers he and James used to practice down at the pitch at school. He decided to try the Thunderbolt now. He pointed the handle of his broom up and kicked it to its fastest speed, which wasn't all that fast because it was a training broom. Still, the broom shot upwards and then Sirius whipped about in a fast circle while doing a handstand on his broom. The centrifugal force generated by the wind enabled him to do that easily, and then he lay along the broomstick and made it dive.
"Sirius Orion Black!" Harry yelled, his heart in his throat. "Are you bloody crazy?"
He had known Sirius was a daredevil in his past youth, but Harry wasn't prepared for the child Sirius to try a maneuver that was so reckless. Harry was unsure what sort of Safety Charms the broom had, and Sirius' maneuver almost made his hair turn white.
"What an idiot," Severus muttered.
"You can say that again!" Harry growled. "Just wait till I get my hands on him. Hold on. I'm going to follow him down." Harry tightened his grip on the Firebolt and then he dove.
Severus felt the wind scream in his ears, but he was not afraid. Instead he laughed, both because it was fun diving this way and because that dunderhead Black thought Harry would be impressed by his grandstanding. Severus couldn't figure out why Sirius didn't realize by now that Harry was not James Potter, and show off stunts like this never went over well with him.
Sirius was yelling with delight as he dove towards the ground. "I did it! I did it!" he was shouting. He was so pumped up by his own success that he forgot to pull up as fast as he should have.
By the time he did so, there almost wasn't enough time left and when he managed to yank the broom skyward again, his tail clipped the ground and the jarring suddenness caused Sirius to flip off his broom.
He flew about three feet through the air and landed hard on the ground.
For a few moments, Sirius remained motionless, the breath knocked out of him.
"Sirius! Oh, bloody hell!" Harry swore, landing his broom and UnSticking Severus before hopping off and running like mad to the reckless child.
Alby was watching in wide-eyed horror. "Sevvy, Siri fell off his broom! Is he gonna be okay? Or will he hafta go to the hosp'tal?"
Severus came to stand next to Alby. "I don't know, Al. But he sure was dumb to try a stunt like that. And he needs to go to a hospital, all right. The kind with the men in white coats and bars on the windows."
"What kind of hospital is that?" Alby asked, puzzled.
"A mental institution," answered his brother.
Harry knelt beside Sirius, asking quietly, "Sirius, can you talk? Can you tell me if you hurt anywhere?"
Sirius attempted to draw a breath, and whimpered a bit. "H-Harry? I . . . I feel like I can't breathe right."
Harry gently felt along the child's ribcage. "Nothing's broken or swollen. You probably are having trouble because you knocked the heck out of yourself. Are you hurt anywhere else?"
Sirius nodded, sniffling. "My . . . my bum hurts awful bad, Harry."
"I'm not surprised, considering how hard you landed," Harry said. He cast a simple diagnostic, the kind that most parents learned as a kind of first aid. The spell revealed that Sirius had assorted bruises up and down his back and buttocks and he had bruised his tailbone. "Let's stand you up."
Harry gently helped the child to stand, then turned him around and felt him over, thanking Merlin that Sirius hadn't broken anything or paralyzed himself.
"Ye-oww!" Sirius yelped as Harry's fingers probed his lower back and bottom. "Harry, stop! It hurts!"
"Sorry, I just wanted to make sure you hadn't fractured it. Sometimes these basic diagnostics can miss something like that," Harry said softly.
Sirius started to cry, his bum felt like it had been stomped on by a dragon.
"Shhh . . . you'll live, imp. You just won't like sitting down for a week or so," Harry said, gently hugging the boy. "And you're lucky that's all you hurt. What possessed you to do a fool thing like that? You could have been paralyzed or . . . killed pulling a stunt like that, Sirius! If it weren't for the fact that you're already sore, you wouldn't be able to sit down for a really different reason, young man!"
Sirius started bawling harder. "I . . . just wanted you to see what a good flyer I was, Harry! M'sorry! Don't be mad!"
Harry sighed. "Sirius, you're a trouble magnet. You don't have to show off to me to prove how good you are on a broom. I already knew it. Doing a stunt like that was extremely—"
"Stupid!" Alby and Severus shouted at the same time.
Sirius blushed and felt utterly pathetic.
"Boys, be quiet, the pair of you!" Harry scolded. "You know how I feel about name calling. Do it again and you'll be eating soap for lunch."
Both Severus and Alby muttered apologies.
Harry gently lifted Sirius in his arms. "Come on, the lesson's over for today. I need to get Sirius into a warm bath with Muscle Relaxing salts and rub a numbing and healing salve on him too."
Severus and Alby trailed Harry.
Once Harry was inside, he turned and gestured to the den before telling Severus and Alby to wait in the den and watch TV, he was going to run a bath for Sirius.
But Severus wasn't minded to listen to Harry, he wanted to see how badly Sirius had gotten hurt. So he waited for Harry to start running the water before he followed them down the hallway.
Alby looked up in alarm when he saw Severus leave. "Sevvy . . . you is gonna get in trouble."
"Shh!" Severus put a finger to his lips. "You stay here, Al. I'll be right back." He tiptoed down the hallway.
In the bathroom, Harry was putting some soothing magical crystals into the water while Sirius undressed. "Siri, you scared me half to death. . . " Harry was saying.
"I didn't mean to . . . I've done that move hundreds of times," Sirius sniveled, removing his clothing.
"When I was bigger," the boy replied. He winced as he stepped free of his jeans and underpants. "And I never fell off, not once!" Tears glistened on his cheeks.
Severus put a hand over his mouth to conceal a gasp. Sirius had red and purple bruises down his lower back and bottom, it looked as if someone had beaten him. Severus could almost feel sorry for him.
Harry shook his head. "Siri, you're not sixteen anymore. You're seven and you should never try anything like that without knowing Cushioning Charms." He beckoned the little boy over. "C'mere. Let's get you in the tub. I've put a Cushioning Charm on the bottom of it so you can sit and soak."
Sirius whimpered as Harry helped him into the water. "Oooh! It's hot!"
"Not really. You just have to get used to it, buddy." Harry said, gently assisting him to sit.
Sirius looked up at Harry and asked guiltily, "Harry, are you really mad at me? I thought you'd think it was cool. Your dad invented that move, you know."
Harry knelt beside the tub and said, "No, I didn't know that. Though maybe I should've, since from what a lot of people tell me, he was pretty reckless and careless with his safety. Siri, I'm mad that you almost died, and I hope you've learned your lesson. I almost had a heart attack when I saw you lying there."
"You did?" Sirius asked. "I thought . . . maybe you didn't care about me anymore . . . now that you have Snape."
"Sirius, that's not true," Harry told him. "I still love you, like I love Teddy and Jamie. Just because Severus lives with me and is like a son to me doesn't mean I stopped loving you. My heart has room in it to love more than four people, you know."
Sirius teared up at that statement. "But . . . sometimes you yell at me, Harry."
"Yeah, but that doesn't mean I don't love you," Harry said, stroking Sirius' hair. "Remus yells at you too and punishes you, does it mean he doesn't love you? No, because if we didn't care about you, we'd not bother correcting you when you did something wrong. I want you to learn from your mistakes and become a better person, Siri." He took a bottle of shampoo and began soaping Sirius' hair.
"Dumbledore never yelled at me and he liked me," Sirius pouted.
"Dumbledore wasn't always right," Harry said. "And I love you far more than he did, Sirius Black. I love you enough to make sure you act like a child should, knowing right from wrong."
He's right. The old man let you and the Marauders run wild. He sure as hell didn't do you any favors, Black, Severus thought bitterly. Dumbledore was a sore subject with him. He both loved and hated the man for his actions. Much of what Dumbledore had done was for good, but his methods were flawed and sometimes he had hurt innocent children by not acting to prevent bullying, as he had done with Severus and the Marauders.
"Oh. I guess, when you put it that way . . ." Sirius said. "I guess I'm just not used to sharing you, Harry."
Get used to it, Black! thought Severus firmly. Because I'm not going anywhere.
"I know. But you have to learn. Think about it this way. The more people you love, the more your love grows. Love has no beginning or end, it's forever and always." Harry said, then he rinsed Sirius' hair off.
Harry started to straighten and Severus quickly ducked out of sight. Severus moved back down the hall to the den, his curiosity satisfied. Hearing about Sirius' insecurity and jealousy regarding Harry made Severus feel strange. He'd never thought of Black as being insecure, Black had been someone Harry had looked up to and came to for advice. Harry had loved Sirius before the war. Then again, maybe Sirius felt jealous because Harry had never stood up for Severus until now.
Severus returned to the den and Alby asked, "Is Siri hurt bad?"
"He's got a bruised bottom, but he'll live. He's taking a hot bath now."
"Is Daddy real mad at him?"
"Yeah, because what he did was really dumb," Severus said. "He's lucky I wasn't in charge of him. I'd have healed him and then spanked his bum for risking his neck."
Alby giggled. "So would Mummy, Sevvy."
"I don't doubt it," Severus said. Ginny had the Weasley temper, and was often sterner than Harry, or so Severus thought. He sat down beside Alby on the couch. "I wonder when she'll be back from the store?"
Alby shrugged. "When she gets dinner, I guess."
By the time Ginny returned from the supermarket, Harry had brought Sirius home and told Dora what had happened and how he had treated the bruised tailbone. She had promised to follow up the treatment herself, saying she knew exactly how to deal with such a thing, since she had been notorious for tripping and falling as a young woman. "I had bruises in places no lady should have," she had chuckled. "Don't worry, I'll take care of the little rascal, Harry." She led Sirius away, alternately hugging and scolding him.
Harry Apparated back home just as Ginny was coming through the door, her arms full of groceries.
"Here, let me help you, Gin," he said, coming forward to take some bags from her. "Looks like you bought out the store."
"Well, I figured we should start stocking up on a few things for the vacation," she replied. "I don't think the beach house comes with food for a family, or house elves either."
"Oh. That makes sense." Then he added mischievously, "I hope you bought donuts."
Ginny rolled her eyes. "Harry James, of course I bought donuts. I'm not crazy to expect you to go on vacation and deprive you of your sugar high. Do you think I want you to be miserable? Or Alby or Sevvy? I not only bought donuts, I bought pumpkin pasties, apple pasties, and Oreos."
"Oreos? You bought Oreos?" he exclaimed, and began rummaging through the bags till he found the package. Harry loved Oreos, but Dudley refused to share any with him growing up and Petunia counted them so he couldn't ever sneak one without getting in trouble. "Gin, you're the best!" he declared as he tore open the blue and white package and ate some.
"Harry!" she scolded, smacking his hand as if he were Alby's age. "You'll spoil your dinner!"
"I will not," he replied, happily munching. "I'm an adult, I'm allowed to have dessert before dinner," he smirked. Then he popped another Oreo in his mouth. "You really ought to try one of these, Ginny." He waved one in front of her face.
"No! If you won't set an example, then I have to. Besides, do you want me to gain weight?"
"Come on, try it. One won't kill you."
She could smell the aroma of chocolate and cream and was salivating. "You're impossible, Harry!"
"Take a bite," he teased. "Just a little one."
Giving in, she snatched the Oreo and bit into it. A look of sheer bliss came over her face. "Oh . . . oh . . . mmm . . . this is . . .heavenly . . . Harry, if you eat the whole package, I'm going to kill you . . ."
He laughed. "If I eat them all, I'll go out and buy more."
"Go out now, Harry. While I'm making dinner," Ginny ordered. She took the package back from him. Then she took another one and ate it.
"Hey, thought you didn't believe in dessert before dinner, Mrs. Potter."
"This isn't dessert, Harry. It's the appetizer. Now get!" She ordered, swatting his bottom playfully.
Laughing , he headed for the door. "How many should I get?"
"Umm . . . enough for all of us."
"All right . . . I'd better get a dozen, some for vacation and some for home," he called, grinning.
That night, Ginny made shepherd's pie and crusty bread, one of her family's favorites. She liked to use ground beef instead of lamb, since her family preferred it, and included carrots and green beans in her casserole as well as the delicious mashed potato topping. Alby normally didn't like green beans, but even he ate them in shepherd's pie without a fuss. Severus and Harry ate practically everything, though Severus disliked lima beans, brussel sprouts, and any organ meats. Ginny didn't care for any of those foods either, so she told Severus he'd never have to worry about finding them on her table.
Once everyone had begun eating, Ginny announced that they were going on vacation. "Your father and I decided we needed to get away for awhile and the best way to do that would be to go on a family vacation. It's been over a year since we've done it, so you wouldn't remember, Alby, since you were two. This year, we've decided to rent a house on the beach in Devon. You can swim, collect shells, sunbathe and just plain have fun."
"That sounds cool, Mummy!" Alby said, grinning. "I never been to the beach b'fore. Have you, Sevvy?"
Severus shook his head. "No. My parents couldn't afford to go on vacation anywhere."
"Great! So this will be a new experience for all of us." Ginny said.
"When are we going?" Severus asked.
"In about a week. Which means we'll need to shop for beach clothes, shoes, and trunks for you boys," Ginny said happily.
Predictably, the boys didn't look all that thrilled.
"Aw, Mum!" Alby groaned. "Clothes shopping's boring! Why can't we just swim in our underwear?"
Ginny's eyes nearly fell out of her head. "Albus Severus! What a thing to say!"
Harry started laughing, unable to help himself, and even Severus hid a grin.
"What'd I say? Teddy tol' me that when he was at his Granny's, they jumped in her lake with their undies on," Alby pointed out.
"Wonderful!" she groaned. Then she elbowed Harry. "Stop laughing, Harry! It's not that funny!" She scowled at her husband and then turned to her son and said, "Alby, swimming in a private lake is different from swimming on a public beach. People don't just . . . swim in their underwear. They swim in trunks. Now, if you come with me tomorrow and don't make a scene, we'll go to the sweet shop after and you can pick out some sweets for the vacation. How's that sound?"
"Okay, Mummy! But I want to pick out cool clothes, not baby clothes," her son stated.
"You can pick out some and I'll pick out some," Ginny compromised. She elbowed Harry again, hard. "Harry, stop it!"
Her husband gave her a sheepish grin. "Sorry. He just comes out with the funniest things sometimes."
"You're impossible!" Ginny snorted. "Who wants dessert? It's chocolate trifle with peanut butter cream and Oreos on top."
Everyone wanted some, though Alby wanted thirds and Ginny told him no, he'd make himself sick.
"No, I won't, Mum!" the child sulked.
"You will and I'm not dealing with a tummy ache, young man. Now stop sulking before you go to bed early." Ginny told him firmly.
Alby pouted, but didn't ask again.
Though later that night, when everyone else was asleep, a certain little boy woke up in the middle of the night to use the potty and snuck down to the kitchen and found the rest of the trifle in the fridge and ate most of it. Alby was careful to rinse out the spoon and put it away and to put the trifle back where he'd found it on the shelf of the fridge.
His little act of rebellion would have remained a secret if he hadn't gotten indigestion an hour later.
Severus woke to a soft groaning sound. He immediately sat up and looked over at Alby's bed. "Something wrong, Al?" he muttered sleepily.
The little boy was curled on his side, hugging Bucky for dear life. "Sevvy . . . I don't feel good. My . . . my tummy hurts."
Severus sat up and whispered, "You want me to get your mum or dad?"
Alby sniffled. "N-No-o."
Severus thought that was weird, until he saw the tell tale smudges of chocolate smeared on his brother's face. "Alby . . . did you sneak down to the kitchen and eat some more dessert?" he demanded.
"Uh huh. All of a sudden I was hungry," his brother whined.
Severus scowled. "See, this is what happens when you stuff yourself like a pig."
Alby felt tears come to his eyes. He knew Sevvy and his mummy were right, but he hadn't been able to help himself, it just tasted so good. "My tummy hurts bad, Sevvy!"
Severus thought for a moment. His normal reaction to something like this would have been to dispense a Stomach Soother. But he knew Harry kept the potions locked up and he couldn't do an Unlocking Charm yet. But he knew there were other ways to relieve an upset stomach besides potions.
"You have to stand up and walk around, Alby," Severus told him. "It's not good for you to lay there curled up like that. It keeps the gas trapped in your stomach and intestines. Get up and start walking around the room."
"I don't wanna walk, Sevvy! I'm tired!"
"You want to get better or you want to suffer?" asked his brother implacably. He wasn't going to put up with any nonsense.
"I wanna get better."
"Then start walking."
Severus went downstairs to see if he could find any mint or chamomile, knowing those two herbs were good for digestion. But he could only find mint and so he plucked a few leaves and gave them to Alby to chew.
"Yuck! I don't wanna eat leaves."
Severus scowled at his little brother. "Fine. Don't eat them and have your stomach hurt."
Alby took the mint and ate it.
After about fifteen minutes the little boy felt his stomach calm and he expelled gas from both ends.
"I feel better now, Sevvy. Can I stop walking?"
"Yes." Severus sighed in relief. "Just go to bed with Bucky, Al."
"Can I sleep with you?"
Severus shook his head. "No way. I'll never get to sleep with you burping and farting. You do that in your own bed." With that he turned and buried his head beneath his pillow, Mimic clutched close.
Because of that late night incident, Severus slept till nine the next morning. Alby slept till eight thirty, but ended up with a case of the runs, resulting in Harry dosing him with some Coke syrup and saying maybe trifle was too rich for his son's system. "Next time, scamp, you're not going to have seconds, only a little bit," he told the crying child.
"But Daddy . . . I like trifle!" wailed Alby.
"You like being sick too?" inquired his father.
"Well, there you go then," Harry informed him. After he'd helped the little boy clean himself, Harry carried Alby into the den and sat with him on the recliner. He rocked the cranky child until Alby fell asleep.
When Ginny came down he told her that Alby was a little sick. "I think that trifle was too rich for his stomach, he's had the runs since he woke up."
"I thought he ate too much last night. Poor baby! Does he have a fever?" Ginny asked, smoothing her son's forehead.
"No. Just an upset stomach. I gave him Coke syrup."
"Well, I don't want to take him shopping when he's not feeling well, so I guess it'll just be me and Sevvy. Unless you want to take Sevvy shopping and I'll stay home?"
"No thanks! You shop, I'll babysit," Harry demurred quickly.
And that was how Severus came to have a nice day out with Ginny alone. He helped her pick out clothing for Alby and swimming trunks with little sharks and seaweed on a blue background.
"Those are so cute, Sev!" Ginny exclaimed. "Alby will love them. Maybe it'll cheer him up from being sick."
Severus, who knew the real reason his brother was sick, merely nodded. "I'm hungry, Ginny. Can we stop shopping and get lunch?"
"Oh, what time is it?" she asked, then looked at her watch. "Goodness, I didn't realize it was twelve thirty. Yes, we can go over to one of these small cafes for lunch and then finish with the sweet shop."
Once she had paid for everything, she shrank her purchases and took Severus' hand and led him to a small table with a green and pink umbrella. Menus popped up when they sat down. Ginny had a crispy chicken salad with poppyseed dressing and a lemon water and Severus grilled cheese with bacon and chips and a strawberry limeade.
Lunch was excellent and since he had eaten all of it, Ginny let him pick out an extra sweet from the sweet shop when they went there. He picked an extra chocolate frog. After getting several kinds of sweets for Harry and Alby to bring with them, as well as a bag of fizzing whizbees for Ginny, the two went home, tired but satisfied with how their shopping trip had gone. "I had fun, how about you, Sev?" Ginny asked as they prepared to Floo.
Severus smiled. "Me too. Sometimes my mum and I would go shopping together, if she wasn't tired," he said, those had been some of the only times he recalled that they had been happy, when they were away from Tobias. But the trips had never lasted long. He drank the Stomach Soother Ginny gave him, then jumped through the green flames after calling, "Godric's Hollow, Potter house!"
Unfortunately, trouble had been brewing at home.
The first thing Severus noticed when he arrived back at the cottage was the sound of Alby crying loudly. His trouble radar went on alert then as he stepped out of the fireplace. He didn't see either Harry or Alby anywhere in the den.
Then he peeked up the stairs and heard a door close. Next thing he saw was Harry coming down the stairs, looking very upset and angry. Uh oh. Somebody's in trouble, he thought and he backed away, heading back into the den and pressing himself against the couch. Even though he wasn't in trouble, and Harry wasn't angry with him, it was an instinctive reaction born of living with a vicious alcoholic.
Ginny stepped out of the Floo and called, "Harry, we're home!"
She looked at her husband, knowing instantly something was wrong. "Harry, you look mad enough to breathe fire. What happened?"
Harry's mouth tightened. "You mean . . . what didn't happen." He shook his head in disgust.
Ginny drew him into the kitchen so they could talk privately.
Harry sat down and began. "After you left, Al slept for another hour and when he woke up I tried to get him to eat some toast and drink a little tea. But he was cranky and only ate a little before crumbling his toast all over. I let it go, because I figured he was sick and I didn't want to scold him. I made him drink some chamomile tea in place of a Stomach Soother and read him a story and had him watch TV. Then I wanted lunch and asked him if he did, and he said yes. So I made him some chicken soup with stars and more tea. But he insisted on having chocolate pudding with it and I told him no . . . he'd been sick from that and if he ate his soup, he could have a sweet when you got home. He threw an absolute fit, Gin . . . howling and kicking his chair and when I told him to stop he shouted that I was mean and he . . . threw his soup at me!"
Ginny's eyes went wide. "Merlin, Harry! Sounds like he was a total spoiled brat. What did you do then?"
"What could I do? I cleaned myself off, picked him up, and put him in time out in his room. Then I left to cool down. When I came back, I gave him a good talking to and then I turned him over my knee. I hated spanking him, especially after he'd been sick all morning, but I couldn't let that go." Harry said miserably.
Ginny came and hugged him. "Harry, you did the right thing. It was deserved, I would have done the same, and so would my mum or dad. You know my mum's rule, "if you act like a spoiled brat, you get punished like one," she quoted. "Was that why he was crying when I came in?"
"Yes. I'd just finished paddling his bum. I was about to give him a hug when he told me to leave him alone. So I left." Harry now looked more upset than angry. "He's never done that before, Gin. He's always let me hold him after he's been punished."
"Love, I think he's going through a stage. He never really acted out when he was two or three, so maybe it's finally catching up to him now. Maybe he's being a brat because he's cranky and upset about me leaving and taking Sevvy. I'm sure he'll let you hug him later, when he's calmed down."
"I guess so," Harry said, brooding about his youngest's attitude.
"You look tired, Harry. Why don't you go and lay down on the couch, take a nap while I unpack and go talk to Alby?" she urged. She felt bad for Harry, she knew he hated using corporal punishment on his son, and now Alby was being a pill besides, making Harry feel guilty.
Harry headed into the den. "Hey, where's Sevvy?"
"I don't know. Unless . . . he went upstairs." Ginny said, glancing about and not seeing Severus.
"He's probably commiserating with Alby about what a troll I am," Harry muttered.
But Ginny shook her head. "Somehow, I doubt that. Don't forget, Harry, this is Professor Snape, and when did he ever tolerate spoiled brats?"
"Never, but . . ."
Ginny put a finger to her lips and crept up the stairs and down the hall to where the boys' room was. Harry followed. The door was partially open and they could hear the two boys talking.
" . . .an' then Daddy was mean an' wouldn't let me eat pudding, only yucky chicken soup," Alby was saying, sniffling. He continued his tale of woe, trying to milk sympathy from his big brother for all he was worth. He ended with, " Daddy's mean an' nasty, Sevvy! He spanked me and now my bum hurts!"
Then he looked at Severus with huge puppy dog eyes and waited for the expected sympathy.
Only Severus wasn't having any of it. "Let me get this straight. You behaved like a royal brat and threw soup at Harry and you didn't think you were going to get in trouble? Al, what planet are you on?"
"I . . . I didn't think he was gonna spank me!" Alby whined, tears falling down his face.
Severus raised his eyebrows. "I'll repeat what I just said. You threw a bowl of soup at him and you're whining that he spanked you? Albus Severus, if you did that to me, I'd have spanked you. So would your mum or your grammy or . . . or anyone in your family. What do you expect when you behave like that? A pat on the head?"
Alby hung his head. "He didn't have to spank so hard."
Severus frowned. "How many did he give you? Four swats, right?"
"Over clothes, with his hand, right?"
Again his brother nodded.
"Alby, you know what my dad would have given me if I'd ever done that? He'd have given me a spanking with a belt on my bare bottom. Now that really hurts."
Alby looked at Severus, his eyes round with shock. "Your daddy did that to you?"
Severus grimaced. "Yes. And I never threw a bowl of soup at him either."
"He sounds like a mean man."
"He was, believe me. But your dad isn't, not by a long shot. So don't ever say he is, got me? Your dad is kind and he doesn't hurt kids like mine did."
"Is that why you live with us now, Sevvy? 'Cause your mean daddy died?"
"Yes. And we're not going to talk about my rotten father again, okay?"
"Uh huh. I'm glad you live here."
"So am I. Now, don't you think you need to say sorry to Harry for acting like a spoiled brat?"
Alby started to cry, ashamed. "But Sevvy . . . Daddy's mad an' . . . he tol' me to stay up here . . .I can't go downstairs or else I'll get in trouble!"
"All right! Calm down!" Severus said, exasperated. He patted Alby on the shoulder.
Alby threw his arms about him then and cried into his shirt. "M' sorry, Sevvy!"
"Al, why are you telling me you're sorry? Do I look like your dad?"
"No, but . . . I don't want you not to love me," Alby sniveled.
"Huh? Why wouldn't I love you?"
"'Cause I'm a spoiled brat."
Severus sighed. He wished the little boy didn't take things so literally! "Al, I'll always love you, even if you are a spoiled brat. You're my brother."
"Really. Here, blow your nose and dry your eyes, you look like a walking snotrag," Severus told him, handing his brother a crumpled napkin from his pocket.
"Now, you stay here and I'll get your dad," Severus told him.
Outside the door, Harry and Ginny exchanged glances. "Well, I'll be! You were right, Gin." Harry whispered.
"Told you so," his wife said smugly. "Let's go back downstairs, so he doesn't know we were listening in."
They Apparated back into the den just as Severus opened the door and started down the hall.
"Alby and I had a talk," he told Harry and Ginny seriously. "He has something he wants to tell you, Harry."
Two minutes later, Harry was sitting on Alby's bed, holding his remorseful son on his lap.
Alby was sobbing into Harry's shirt. "Sorry, Daddy! M'sorry I was bad!"
Harry cuddled him and said softly, "All right, son. I forgive you. Just don't do it again."
Alby cried for a few more moments, then sniffled, " 'Kay, Dad. I hate when you spank me."
"I don't like it either, but you deserved it," Harry said, rubbing his back. "You going to behave now?"
"Yessir," Alby said. "Are you gonna tell Mummy?"
"She already knows, scamp."
"Is she mad too?" his son asked worriedly.
"She's disappointed, but she'll forgive you too." Harry reassured him. "Would you like to eat something, Al? I think your tummy's hungry."
Just then the boy's stomach growled loudly. "It is!" Alby cried.
"Thought so. Come on, let's get some food in that empty belly. And if you eat, maybe Mummy has a surprise for you after." Harry said, rising and carrying his son downstairs.
"Even though I was bad?"
"Alby, you were bad for me, not her. Anyhow, it's over and done with."
His son put his head on his father's shoulder, now quite willing to let his father hug and hold him.
Ginny heard them come downstairs and was quick to greet her son, who told her in a soft shamed voice what he had done while she was out. She scolded him mildly and then hugged him and fixed him a half a bread and butter sandwich and a bowl of chicken noodle soup. This time, Alby ate without a tantrum.
Afterwards, Ginny showed Alby the clothes they'd picked for him. He really loved the swimming trunks. Then he opened his chocolate frog, taking a bite before it hopped away. "Let's see the card, Sevvy!" He handed the wrapped card to his brother. "Who is it?"
Severus unwrapped the foil and then he just stared at it, his mouth half open.
"Who is it? Who is it?" Alby demanded, jumping up and down.
"It's . . ." he almost said "me". For there, peering up at him, was his old self, black robes, scowl, and all. Underneath the portrait were his name, and the titles Potions Master, Defense Master, and Headmaster of Hogwarts. He held the card in fingers that trembled slightly and said, "Professor Snape."
Alby beamed. "Cool! That was my mummy and daddy's old teacher. I'm named after him an' so are you. My daddy always says he was the bravest man he ever knew."
"He did?" Severus was shocked.
"Yup." Alby took the card. "I never had him before. He's hard to find." He peered at the card. "He looks kinda scary, but my dad said he was a good man, that he saved lots of people." Alby gently tucked the card in his pocket, then ate the rest of the chocolate frog. "I can't wait to go to the beach house, can you?"
Severus shook his head, still marveling at the fact that he was on a chocolate frog card and was considered a famous wizard . . . the bravest man Harry Potter ever knew. Who would have thought?
The week went by quickly for the Potter family, and before Severus knew it, they were going to Floo to the beach house in Devon, where he was sure more surprises and discoveries awaited. It would be his first ever vacation, and he hoped all would go well.
A/N: Hope you all liked this part. I was going to have this be part of the vacation chapter, but then decided to split them so it wouldn't be so long. Did you like Harry's conversation with Sirius? Alby? How about Sev's conversation with Alby? Were you surprised at the chocolate frog card?
Also for those of you wondering when Lily will show up-she can only come back on Halloween, the date of her death. The summer is for Sev and Sirius to get adjusted to their new families and each other and THEN Lily will arrive and have some adjusting of her own to do with her new family as well as Severus and Sirius. So please be patient, Lily will arrive in a few more chapters.
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